WHO support health delegation at Copenhagen

June 17, 2009 at 10:46 pm | Posted in News | 1 Comment
Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum: Health community has become separated from climate negotiations

Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum: Health community has become separated from climate negotiations

By James Black

The WHO today threw its support behind calls for a special delegation of health sector experts to attend climate change talks in Copenhagen. With the discussions in Bonn ending with little or no input from health professionals, concerns have been raised that the UNFCCC might not live up to its stated goals regarding climate change and human wellbeing.

On the back a number of reports outlining the serious health threats posed by climate change, The Health and Environment Alliance and Health Care Without Harm sent an open letter asking the European Commission to make sure the voice of the healthcare sector is heard at Copenhagen.

During the meeting at Bonn last week it emerged that less than 1% of government participants involved in the climate change preparatory work come from the health sector. Campaigners have called for health to be included in developing the strategy, as well as environment and development.

Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, senior scientist on environment and health at the WHO told this blog today that the he supports the aims of HCWH and HEAL. He added that the problem lies in the lack of discourse between the various industries and governmental communities affected by climate change.

“I don’t think it is because anybody is hostile to the idea,” said Dr Campbell-Lendrum. “It’s because these communities have become quite separated. All the people who go to climate change negotiations include ministries for environment, foreign affairs, and maybe the ministry for development – and that has its own momentum. And they have enough arguments to be getting on with.”

A key issue to emerge from the Bonn talks was the responsibility of the healthcare sector itself to stand up and be counted at Copenhagen. The WHO has called on experts and professionals to make their voices heard ahead of the final negotiations in December.

Dr Campbell-Lendrum added: “Unless the health community is quite clear what kind of things they are asking for and that it will actually help the climate change negotiations, rather than just distract from them, then you can see why it is quite difficult for this message to be integrated. It has become mainly an environment and development discussion.”

According to a report published last month by the Global Humanitarian Forum, the think tank of former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan, severe heatwaves, floods, storms, and forest fires could increase the annual deaths from global warming from 300 000 today to 500 000 by 2030.

Recent reports from the WHO, and The Lancet journal in the UK have also emphasized the potential crisis in human health that could result from global warming.

The explicit aims of the UNFCCC, as it was established in 1992, were to include human health as a key aspect of any approach to dealing with climate change. However, Dr Campbell-Lendrum warned that the talks risk contradicting this fundamental principle if they fail to acknowledge the voice of the healthcare sector.

“They may well reach an agreement, but that agreement will miss a large part of the point,” he said. “One of the main principles of the UNFCCC Treaty is to protect health as well as the environment and economic development. And if the treaty does not have health fully integrated into it, then we would see that as missing a third of the goals they wish to achieve.

“It is basically contradictory if you say that you are trying to avoid adverse affects on human health, and then actually fail to include anything about health in the operating mechanisms.”

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  1. Fully agree to get heal and climate considerd together. Climate will change disease vector distribution eg mosquitoes and malaria. This will lead to more extrensive use of pesticides in new areas and subsequent exposure of local populations, particularly important for the foetus, young children, maturing adults, and elderly people.

    Climate Change —-> Disease Distribution Change —–> Increased and Novel Chemical Exposures

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